SEPA checklist guidance, Section B: Historic & cultural preservation

We provide guidance to help applicants complete SEPA checklist Section B: Historic and cultural preservation.

13. Historic and Cultural Preservation


A community's cultural and historic resources tell the distinct story of its past. From lumber mills to schools, sacred landscapes to archeological sites, rustic cabins to office towers, these environmental elements are unique, non-renewable resources.

Federal, state, and local environmental laws and review processes typically require consideration be given to protecting significant historic, archeological, and traditional cultural sites. The state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), local historic preservation organizations, and tribal governments work with agencies, private citizens, and developers to identify and develop strategies to protect Washington’s cultural heritage.

Compliance programs reviewed by tribal governments, cultural resource agencies, and private organizations:

  • Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act — Requires federal agencies to consider cultural resources in their licensing, permitting, and funding decisions. Federal agencies consult with state and local governments to identify cultural resources and receive formal opinions about the significance of an affected area and probable impacts.
  • State Environmental Policy Act — Requires agencies to consider impacts to cultural resources during the environmental review process. DAHP and others provide technical expertise and may issue formal opinions to local governments and other state agencies regarding impacts.
  • Forest Practices Act — Sets forest practice standards for timber harvest, pre-commercial thinning, road construction, fertilization, and forest chemical application activities. The rules help protect historic and cultural sites while maintaining a viable timber industry.
  • Governor's Executive Order 05-05 — Requires all state agencies with capital improvement projects to integrate DAHP, Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, and tribal governments into their planning process to protect historic and cultural sites.
  • State Shoreline Management Act — Requires local governments issuing development permits in areas with archeological sites to have them inspected or evaluated by professional archeologists in partnership with affected tribal governments before issuing permits.

a. Are there any buildings, structures, or sites, located on or near the site that are over 45 years old and listed in or eligible for listing in national, state, or local preservation registers located on or near the site? If so, specifically describe.

Applicants with projects affecting structures at least 45 years old need to submit an Historic Property Inventory form to DAHP, which may require more intensive investigation or impacts to structures be mitigated.

b. Are there any landmarks, features, or other evidence of Indian or historic use or occupation? This may include human burials or old cemeteries. Are there any material evidence, artifacts, or areas of cultural importance on or near the site?​ Please list any professional studies conducted at the site to identify such resources.

Historical and archeological places include significant locations, structures, or other evidence containing material remains of human life or activity. These can include sites associated with important historical personalities, sites or events—even when no physical evidence remains.

SEPA rules require environmental review decisions be based on sufficient information and that threshold determinations sufficiently evaluate a proposal's environmental impact. Describe the process for incorporating historic and archeologic research and surveys, tribal consultation, and data gathering. The reference "near the site" is not limited to "adjacent to the site" since associated impacts may extend beyond a site's boundaries.

c. Describe the methods used to assess the potential impacts to cultural and historic resources on or near the project site. Examples include consultation with tribes, DAHP, archeologic surveys, historic maps, GIS data, etc.

Each Indian tribe is a sovereign nation with its own definition of appropriate consultation. However, here are some materials to assist with consultation efforts:

Other tribal government resources:

d. Proposed measures to avoid, minimize, or compensate for loss, changes to, and disturbance to resources. Please include plans for the above and any permits that may be required.

To adequately evaluate historic and cultural preservation impacts, applicants may need to search databases and conduct resource surveys. A survey or other type of analysis is not usually a mitigation measure and a SEPA threshold document alone cannot impose conditions. Describe the measures to avoid, minimize, or counter deliberate impacts. These might include:

  • Reviewing DAHP's recordation guidelines
  • Avoidance with a modifying project
  • Maintaining or restoring the integrity of the site or landmark
  • Relocating the structure or artifact
  • Meeting tribal needs regarding the sanctity of a location
  • Require compliance with an Inadvertent Discovery Plan